Thursday, August 2, 2012

Lofty Thoughts or What I Did This Summer (and am still doing) A jumbledy bit of writing but I'm too yawny to properly sort it, so I wish y'all luck making sense of it.

Years ago when I moved in with The Manimal I sorted through my little rented house like a mad woman and got rid of nearly everything I own. Hahahahaha!    
   Ok, I got rid of a whole lot of stuff. Sofas, chairs, tables, boxes and boxes of books, half of my  clothing, more than half of my dishes, pots and pans and so on. I gave things away to family and friends, then I donated the rest of it all to Goodwill and moved down to this valley with a happy heart and a great deal of optimism.
        Optimism, of course, is a far cry from Clear Thinking.
.    The Manimal built this house, and raised his 3 sons here long before I came to this part of the country.He has a long history here, a history full of adventures and collecting.
   Because I did not want to take up too much space or be a burden I thought the best thing would be to move my belongings into the loft of the house. My reasoning is that the loft was not 'really' being used.  It just held things in boxes and random bits of furniture belonging to the 3 grown sons who were all off living on their own. Junk least close enough to junk that none of the boys wanted it in their own homes.   After a couple of years the boys moved their stuff out (or threw it away or whatever) which you would think would give me more space, but I got another sewing machine, and set up my quilting frame to finish a quilt, and my brother gave me a spinning it stayed crowded up here.
This is what happens when you move 5 rooms of stuff into one room.
    The loft had been 2 bedrooms not-very-large-bedrooms before the addition was built, with one bedroom having a half wall, open to the great room below.  A year or two before I met The Manimal he had taken out (chopped out might be a more accurate term) the wall between the bedrooms, turning this into a large open room. Brilliant idea, much more useful than two little pokey rooms.   STill, once all my giving away was done I still ended up essentially  moving 5 rooms of belongings into one room.

I managed to get all my vast wardrobe into the closets, but it certainly took some doing.
  My dilemma with wardrobe issues is this-I really like clothes and have far too many of them.  Like most people I had by this time accumulated different kinds of clothes. Everyday clothes such as jeans, sweaters, t-shirts; dressy clothes for special occasions with matching uncomfy footwear and little bags that won't hold anything; Sunday Best dresses and suits; painting clothes (with my history of painting all over them); school clothes (I was in college for a decade. Oy.); play clothes; shorts and tank tops for hot weather; thermal underwear for cold weather;rather nice and properly stylish office type clothes (for business occasions and interviews);. Costumes for dress-up (we're that kind of family), and lastly I had a set of handmade clothes from The Plain Dress Project.
Here is one overstuffed closet. Behind the crammed together clothes are 10 plastic snap-lid storage boxes (6 large, 4 small).Necessary because mice love dresser drawers, and chew into cardboard boxes.

As a Textiles Major at university I'd become interested in the functionality of clothing on several levels. Why do people dress as they do? How do we judge/evaluate one another by our clothing? Where does clothing comed from? Who makes it and how, and in what conditions?    These and a dozen other clothing related questions filled my head.
Someow when I started working 40 hours a week I stopped tidying and putting things away.   Beneath the clutter-an ironing board, a desk, two sewing machines, two dressers, a sewing project. a bookmaking project, and afghan squares waiting to be stitched together. Oh yeah, and a spinning wheel I need to find a part for.
As my Thesis work for my degree in Textile design I chose to do an exploration of very fundamental clothing.  As it happens, in the middle of the year I ended up dropping out of college to go live in the forest and take up a Back-to-the-Land lifestyle with my darling  long-haired bookbinding teacher, so I've not actually completed the Plain Dress Project.
     But I haven 't given it up either. 
The idea of the project was that I would design a simple functional outfit, make multiples of it, and live a year wearing these plain-ish dresses exclusively. I would carefully document what this did to A-the cloth, B-my head, and possibly C-my relationships. I chose simple homespun cotton, which to my delight turned out to not need ironing after the first few washings. I chose to make dresses because I was double majoring in religious studies and spent a lot of time in places where a woman appearing in pants would have been disrespectful. (I couldn't think of anywhere wearing a dress would offend anyone). I designed the dresses to have large pockets so I could forgo carrying a purse, and I calculated the size of the bodice and neckline so the dresses would slip easily over my head simply because I hate putting in zippers. Because I would be wearing aprons much of the time (very practical) I chose checked and print fabrics rather than plain colors to avoid being taken for a member of our nearby Amish communities.
    Not that I'd be offended to be thought Amish, but that I would be going places Amish women do not go, and I didn't want to cause any confusion or undue curiosity about them.

    I did actually learn quite a lot from The Plain Dress Project, about the properties of different fibers, about commercial clothing construction, design and marketing. I learned a bit about how clothing functions as an identifier for groups. I learned about clothing styles in different countries, and about how various cultures view concepts such as modesty, propriety, stylishness, vanity and humility.
    I learned things about myself too. I learned I honestly prefer simple handmade dresses to any other type of clothes (and believe me I've tried them all).
    I learned by buying and wearing some that actual Amish/Mennonite style dresses are Not for me. They're too structured for my taste, too complicated to construct, and are these days generally made of polyester which must be a godsend to a mother with 8 or 10 kids to clothe as it's so easy-care, but I just really hate wearing polyester. (My poly work shirts are bad enough, I'd hate to wear the stuff from neck to knees!)
     I learned that I dislke having anyone else tell me what to wear and what  not to wear. Muleheaded, what?
     I learned that I'm happy making clothing. For my family. I can't imagine wanting to take up doing it for the general public. I prefer to just be my very own sweat-shop.

    I learned that with a dozen or so types of clothes to choose from each day I kept reaching again and again for the same few dresses, the ones I made in the summer of 2007. Consequently when it came to decluttering, that is what I opted to keep.  The plain dresses for my personal wear, and the work uniform for when I'm "on the clock".

  As I'm in my current job most likely until I retire I won't be needing office clothes EVER AGAIN for office wear or for job interviews. No more Dress For Success, from here on people can just take me as they find me. What a Huge Relief! (for me anyway, I don't know how 'people' feel about it.)

     With only the plain dresses I of course could easily part with all the pairs of shoes of various styles and heel heights that don't go with plain dresses. All the stockings and undies of a style to not work with plain dresses.  All the coats and jackets and sweaters that don't work with the dresses.
    Box after box filled up and my smile got bigger and bigger.
    My closets have plenty of breathing space between hangers now.  I still have enough of an assortment to play around with a little (blue dress with aqua apron? purple dress with pink flowered apron? brown striped dress with brown flowered underskirt?)  This pleases my artistic inner child without taxing my frustration level. I like having more wiggle room between things.

Second closet.  Behind these clothes are boxes of stuff that 'came with the house' which I therefore cannot get rid of. Not my stuff, not my perogative to jettison it. I compromise and hide it from myself for now.
 So here are my two closets jam packed with many many kinds of clothes. Too many.
   As I am now employed in town as a humble custodian I wear to work the required uniform of a pair of jeans (I own 3 pair) and a pocketed polyester smock (the company supplies us with 4). I wear these clothes in rotation day after day. Actually although I own 3 pair of jeans I don't like wearing jeans, so I've been wearing the 1 most comfortable pair day after day (washing as needed) and haven't gotten around to taking the other 2 pair off the shelf in 12 weeks now.
My work is as custodian in a "quad" of university dormitories. This past week we had some early students move in. It is a program for inner city kids, they come to campus 3 weeks early to get a head start on living away from home and having a drastically different lifestyle.

As I'd been threatening to seriously declutter the loft, hauling empty packing boxes down from the upper stories of the dorms put me in mind to let these boxes serve humanity one more time before being recycled.

   I got my co-workers to help me accumulate a few decent sized boxes, bit enough to hold a good deal, small enough for me to carry when full.  When The Manimal picked me up from work I hurled them in the back of the pickup truck and I spent my two days off this week sorting out a large bookcase and one and a half closets. I am not yet decided what to do about some of the not-mine things in the back of the second closet. I may address that issue on my next days off.
Here's the first closet again. My work clothes (ho-hum) hang on the door here, but I later moved them to the second closet when I'd emptied out the unworn stuff in there.  Behind these rows of clothes the mouse-proof storage containers are all sorted out. Lots of clothes, shoes, blankets, sheets, and craft things packed up and ready for the charity shop and the "free" shelves at our local recycling center.

As I have a zillion (estimate) too many books I;ve decided to only keep the ones I really read/want as reference books, and my favorite of the children's books for reading with grandchildren.  The rest of them can go to the library book sale where they can make someone else happy. I've had my turn.
Here I've taken the books from a large bookcase (to  move it, it weighs a ton)

Here the books are all in boxes, as is 85%  of my previous wardrobe.
The secret of the success of this decluttering project is that The Manimal will be traveling soon. Due to his collecting nature it is tricky to get an unwanted object of any description out of the house without him pointing out that
A-we may need it someday
B- we have another one alike and we shouldn't break up the pair
C-they don't make them like that anymore
D-we could use it for parts if something breaks
E-we might know someone who needs one and if we keep it then we'd have it to give to the future imaginary person

and while I understand the logic (ha!) of all these points, my answer in this case is It is MY STUFF and I AM GETTING RID OF IT. PERIOD.

To avoid un pleasant conversations therefore I am secretly plotting to haul these boxes of goodby things to their various destinations while my beloved is in France enjoying the bread and wine and cheese. We each shall thereby have our own favorite pleasures.

Like any large project  the Loft Clearing is looking a whole lot worse before it will look better. That seems to be the nature of life. Fixing often looks like disaster for a brief while.

I'll post you some after photos when it gets to looking better.

In the meantime, look at these:

And lastly here's a picture of eggs because the girls lay such pretty eggs and looking at them mkes me smile.


  1. OooooOOOoooOOOOoh. This story is right up my alley. I'll stay tuned for further bulletins. Though I was staying tuned anyway, so hey, no rush.

  2. My days off are Monday and Tuesday and I fully intend to make some good progress. The Manimal flies out on the `12th, which is a week from Sunday, so his departure will be immediately followed by my days I can haul a good many things out of here then. This will give me more room to work as I sort and pack further. Also, our recycling center generally has a good stash of boxes on hand AND we'll have students moving into the dorms while he's gone as well, so I should be able to box up and haul out to my little heart's content for a full week before his return.
    Is Life good or what?

  3. Burninating the countryside.... thanks for uploading all those "Before" shots. Including pictures can be a bother, but it's such a treat for your readers.

    I just learned a crafting acronym I thought you'd appreciate. SABLE: Stash Accumulation Beyond Life Expectancy. I laughed heartily.

  4. My project for the day was to clean out and mob the front hall/ante room/ dump spot. Once I'd hauled everything out I decided I ought to mop the kitchen at the same time, which involved cleaning the Reast of the kitchen first, because duh, crumbs. Needless to say, when my beloved Beastie got home from work the entry was stripped bare, the living room was covered in shoes and I was Windexing the top of the fridge. Heh.

  5. What could be cuter than a ginger windexing a fridge top? Lucky hubby.

  6. Hooray, this is so exciting! I want to see some photos of you in the clothes you are keeping! Well done, that girl!

  7. Ember-The Manimal is in Paris right now (fetching home the Kerouac Scroll) and the critters lack thumbs so they're no good with a camera. I'll get my good mate to take some pics for you when he is home again ; )


If you disagree with me try to keep it clean, or I'll wash your mouth out with homemade soap.